Friday, November 10, 2006


It's true, in some places they really do play chess in the park with giant pieces.

In this particular case, I was wandering around Sydney, Australia, minding my own business, when I came face to face with Bobby Fischer. You know, the American born, Icelandic chess grandmaster. Keep in mind, this was just before 9/11 and Bobby's subsequent banning by a 7-0 unanimous decision from the USCF (later might assume at my request and I won't deny that, though I didn't have a vote) for going ballistic over U.S. policies.

But that would all come later. What he had on his mind that day wasn't politics, but the belief that he had just found the world's next grandmaster, a chess champion so cunning, so far seeing, that an ordinary game of chess would belittle his talents. Yes, he had found that champion in me and we would play no ordinary game of chess that day.

In a game inspired by Gilligan's Island and Rory Calhoun's search for the ultimate game, we played not just for our honor, but for the lives of the Aussies nearby. If you look carefully, you can see Boris Spassky in the audience, preparing to eliminate a few helpless pawns. Ah, it was a game bush poet Banjo Paterson, had he still been alive, might have captured in a ballad, comparing the wild moves of our pieces to those of the brumbies and my eventual sweep of Fischer's pawns to that "terrible descent" of The Man, all set to the rushing melody of Murray Head whose double-entendres underscored the spiritual purity of our game set against the moral corruption of the stakes.

The woman in the blue windbreaker in the front? Beheaded by Spassky when my queen took Fischer's queen. The man in the foreground, brutally hamstringed when Fischer's knight pounced upon my rook. Oh the queen was red that day, red with blood, and red like the evolutionary stalemate she signifies, though this was a stalemate of the ends of mental evolution pitted mano-a-mano, Fischer-a-Scooter, black-a-white. To see it would have made you humble, no matter how hard your mettle.

Oh, we played to the endgame, our pawns and kings becoming ever more powerful, and my superior knowledge of tablebases came to the fore. My studies of endgame theory under Mark Dvoretsky were obvious, and Fischer was sweating. In retrospect his RĂ©ti Opening was misplayed and his Alekhine's Defence feeble. Hypermodernism might have defeated orthodoxy in the 1890's, but the Scooter-orthodoxy of the 1990's was another beast entirely, and the attempt to capture the center with distant pieces, foolish and misguided. When Fischer's last bishop sliced toward d4, it was as if I could feel an angel sliding up to me.

No one in this picture is left alive to tell the tale. They all payed the price, most of them willingly, for the privilege of viewing the greatest game of chess ever played. And Fischer? His mental instability after his loss was evident in the coming months. Me...I went back to my life as a humble computer programmer aware that with no other grandmaster capable of challenging me, no ultramaster to speak of, I would belittle the game by ever picking up a piece again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So was the pigeon spared since it couldn't actually speak of the event - left alive to bear mute witness to the grandeur and unspeakable brutality of the match?